Scratch (MIT, web based game)

         This interactive and easy to use website based game teaches kids ages 8-16 to code by creating simple animations, games, and stories. This site is free to use with a simple sign up requiring a parent email address for younger users. The game’s unique coding language based on movable blocks gives users experience figuring out problem solving and design elements. Users can choose from a list of characters to move around and work with and choose how these characters or objects to interact with each other. The simple drag and drop method helps children learn order, reaction, and simple rules of this elements present in a variety of real life programming languages. A step-by-step tutorial is easily accessible and finished projects can be shared within the site. Pre-made templates or “starter projects” are also available for users to add to and change as they wish. A social element exists but is limited to user comments on projects, which are present to give feedback and inspire learning.

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Example of the layout and design mode of Scratch.

            Created and run by MIT, this site has fun cartoon characters to use and is overall intuitive to use. The frequent use of drag and drop, pattern recognition and sequence are appropriate to the 8-16 age group. Although this covers a wide span of ages, younger kids will find themselves drawn to the “do no wrong” element, as any sequence of blocks will produce animation or action. Likewise, older users can delve deep into the programming language and create more detailed projects. Because it is supported by MIT there are no commercial or marketing interest involved, which is a refreshing element for a kid focused website. Overall, the programing language reaches its goal of teaching and exploration with an easy to use and fun to alter design.

This project has received a large amount of press because of its attempt to bring a seemingly technically difficult technology to children. A New York Times article on Scratch discusses the benefits of collaboration on the site and touted this element as an important difference among other programming apps and games.[1] Likewise a review on the popular Design Envy site praises the simplicity of the language as an advantage for learners. “The fussiness of traditional text-based languages has been an insurmountable frustration for many would-be learners. The developers have also included a little audible feedback and “snap” action when the pieces fit that is very gratifying.”[2]

–Anna Brinegar


[1] Peter Wayner. Programming for Children, Minus Cryptic Syntax. The New York Times. Nov. 9, 2011. Web.

[2] Rafael Fajardo. Scratch: MIT Media Lab. Nov. 3, 2011. Design Envy Blog. Web. http://designenvy.aiga.org/scratch-mit-media-lab/

 

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